Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wanted: Retro Servers

Over the past few years, World of Warcraft has had two major expansions. Each raised the top limit on character level, added new areas to play in and new quests to do—targeted mainly at high level characters, since they were the ones who had already done most of the interesting stuff in the previous version of the game.

This raised a problem for a new player or a player with a new character. Before getting to the fun new stuff he had to spend a lot of time "leveling" his character to get him up to the necessary level. To solve that problem, the expansion modified the existing material, typically by making everything easier, reducing the cost in time and effort of getting a new character up to a reasonably high level.

The downside of that change was to lower the quality of the lower level material. Quests that used to provide an interesting and enjoyable challenge were now only a test of whether you had half an hour free to do them. Some players responded by persuading, or paying, higher level characters to walk their low level characters through the quest, cutting it from half an hour to fifteen minutes—and, incidentally, eliminating any point to doing the quest other than as a way of leveling the character.

Not everyone was happy with the changes; some players miss the challenges of the earlier versions. The obvious solution is for Blizzard to provide, in addition to its regular servers running the current version of the game, a few retro servers. A classic server would run the game as it existed prior to the first upgrade, a Burning Crusade server the game as it existed prior to the second upgrade. A player who wanted the fun of working through the early quests could create a character on one of the retro servers, a player who preferred the later could have a character there, and one who enjoyed both could have characters on both sorts of servers. A character from a retro server could, perhaps when he reached the maximum level, transfer to a less retro one. Transfers in the other direction would presumably not be permitted, since the new material and higher levels from the current version of the game would not fit well into the early versions.

Is anyone from Blizzard reading this post?


chris said...

This is something that SOE did with EverQuest, and I assume is something that Blizzard will roll out with as well when it makes sense -- financially -- for them to do so. I wouldn't look for it to happen until their membership numbers start falling and they look for ways to entice older subscribers back with the "classic" experience.

Raphfrk said...

Mythic implemented "classic" servers for people who didn't like the "Trials of Atlantis" expansion.

Also, they are talking about an "origins" server, which would be even further back. This is for people who played around the time that the game started.

The problem is that even an old "static" rule-set needs to be supported. People are still going to want all the bug fixes. They will still want any additional updates. Making sure that everything works and is balanced no matter which expansions a given server has enabled requires effort.

It is easier if they just have to support one version of the software for everyone.

One of the issues is that they make lots of money from expansions. That is why all the items in the expansions are better than the previous areas.

Unknown said...

I always thought this was a great idea. I have played since before BC, and i remember "the good ol' days." truth be told, i like the game better now, but it would be fun to romp through the game in its original form without having to use a private server.

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